Something had gone wrong with the Italian weather. The wind whistled in from the cold wastes of central Europe, bringing a bitter cold. The sun remained resolutely behind the clouds. Not ideal for a sea trial, but if a boat can perform in these conditions, she will certainly perform in the calm seas and endless sunshine of yachting dreams.
I was warm and snug in the pilothouse of the Pershing 76, cruising at more than 40 knots with spray flying outside. It is easy to see why Pershing calls this 76 "the next generation". The technology may be the builder's same formula for high performance, but the design includes new emotion. This yacht is fast, sophisticated and simply brilliant. I'm a jaded high-speed freak who thought he had seen it all, and the Pershing 76 was a new and exciting experience for me.
The Pershing formula is simple. Take a deep-V hull, add plenty of power coupled to Arneson drives, fit a luxury interior, stir in Italian inspiration and top off with interesting finishing touches. The result is a well-integrated design that performs with such refinement that at 40 knots, driver and guests alike can sit back, relax and enjoy. Even at the 76's top speed of just over 48 knots, I was able to have a civilized conversation at the helm.
Her hull has 20 degrees of deadrise aft, deep for a yacht of this scale, but the reward is a well-cushioned ride. The 76 slices through waves, and nothing I saw during my sea trial disturbed the equilibrium. Of course, in big waves, owners will have to drive more conservatively, but typical pleasure-yacht conditions won't trouble the 76. As her speed increases and the wide chines come into play, a certain harshness does develop in the ride, but this is reassuring rather than disconcerting.
At speed, the bow of her deep hull rides level with the horizon. A touch on the tabs can bring it down and help glue the boat to the water in head seas. I rarely needed to touch the trim control for the Arnesons, except when trying to coax the 76's last ounce of speed. In most conditions, she should run level and true. The boat heels into turns like most deep-Vs, but full control remains even in sharp turns. It is hard to fault the 76's thoroughbred handling. Even in the harbor, her maneuvering was remarkably docile, with the trolling valves cutting down the power and the bow thruster adding control in fresh winds.
Pershing's formula was also evident as soon as I stepped onto the beautiful teak cockpit. The raw wood contrasted wonderfully with the silver and royal blue of the two-tone moldings. There was a small welcoming bar for guests, but the optional teak dining table or casual seating area would cry out for use on warm summer evenings.
Immediately after stepping through the sliding glass door into the saloon, I noticed the long, curved settee covered in real crocodile skin. Owners can specify leather, but the crocodile skin looks wonderful and inviting. A glass screen separates the saloon from the helm, with a 32-inch plasma-screen TV on the saloon side. A remote control operates all saloon systems, so guests can change the ambience without leaving their seats.
The air conditioning is nice, but opening the huge sunroof creates a virtually open boat. With the sunroof closed for the cold, the interior's refinement whispers "black tie".
On the lower deck, the style changes to more restful but modern. Warm pear wood is used extensively, with interesting contrast from dark, horizontal wood strips on the paneling. Curved doors eliminate the boxy look, and there is good natural light in all the cabins. The design of the staterooms is simple, and three- or four-cabin layouts are available. In the three-cabin version, the master suite extends to include a second walk-in closet, but owners with kids may prefer the extra bunk space. Unlike previous Pershings, the 76 does not have a lower saloon. The design team, believing most previous owners chose to relax in the upper saloon, decided to forgo the darker lower saloon in favor of more commodious staterooms and the optional fourth cabin.
The full-beam master has a queen berth angled in the after corner, leaving space for a corner settee and a walk-in locker. A large mirror on the after bulkhead helps to enlarge the visual space and is integrated into the overall look, with dark wood strips crossing its face. The head is three steps up.
Forward, the VIP suite has a walk-in locker and a high berth that fits into the bow. The twin cabin's head doubles as a convenient day head.
A spiral stair in the saloon's after end accesses the crew quarters, a compact but comprehensive galley and the crew mess. There are two crew cabins with a shared head.
Since this is a performance boat, the design focuses on the helm. Pershing drew on aircraft experience to create a compact yet informative dashboard. In the center is a Raymarine radar/chart plotter, flanked by an autopilot and a small data screen. The top of the panel includes engine and propulsion instrumentation, with everything mounted on a black carbon-fiber panel.
The throttles and VHF radio are mounted between the helm seats. A neat feature is the way the mounting panel can be adjusted in or out, so the throttles will be in just the right place no matter the skipper. It is a pity the same level of thought did not go into the wheel, which is mounted vertically but is too low for convenient use from the seat. Forward of the wheel is a bank of levers that control the tiller steering, bow thruster, flaps and power trim.
Off on the port side is a comprehensive electrical panel with useful shallow lockers below. Handholds in this area would be a welcome addition.
Visibility forward through the wide, pillar-free glass panel is excellent. Under way, the view astern is blocked by the towering rooster tail created by the tortured water coming out of the drives, but that tail will certainly look spectacular to yachtsmen left in the 76's wake.
When I entered the engine compartment from the crew area, the twin 2,000 hp V-16 MTU diesels seemed to stretch astern forever, through a ZF gearbox and then to the ASD 15 Arneson drives. Though the engine compartment looked full, I could get to everything a skipper might need.
Twin 15.5kW Kohler generators provide electrical power, and huge silencers help to quiet engine exhaust noise.
Above the engines, the garage is big enough to stow a 12-foot tender, a PWC and a crane for launching. Atop the garage is a sunpad. The swim platform protects the drives and serves as a perfect play area.
Around the pilothouse, the side decks are narrow, but there is easy access to the foredeck through electric doors on each side of the helm.
In terms of refined fast-boat design, the Pershing 76 tops the class. There was a time when owners who wanted performance had to sacrifice comfort and sophistication. The 76 offers both. She is definitely the next generation.